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A Vivid Memoir From The Youngest McCourt

Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Alphie McCourt is 10 years younger than his famous brother Frank, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes. In fact, Alphie is the youngest of seven McCourt siblings (four survived their brutally impoverished infancies in Ireland) and the third to have penned a memoir. In A Long Stone's Throw, Alphie gives his account of the McCourt family history, beginning in his native Limerick and crossing the Atlantic to the U.S.

If you're wondering whether the world really needs yet another account of the painful struggles of the McCourt family, consider what may be some sort of genetic gift when it comes to weaving delightful narrative spells and plumbing deeply humanist insight from their experiences.

Little Alphie was left behind, heartsick, when his two older brothers immigrated to America. He followed as soon as he was able, on a 20,000-ton ocean liner in 1959. In the U.S., as a teenager, he soon lapsed into alcoholism. McCourt returned to Ireland briefly and disastrously to study law. It wasn't until he was much older, after a life spent mainly in the restaurant and bar business and the arrival of a daughter born with difficulties, that McCourt experienced an epiphany that led to sobriety. (His road to Damascus happened to be Route 80.)

In an interview with Publisher's Weekly last year, McCourt said he has always been a writer. He added, "If there is a divine, then Angela's Ashes was divinely inspired. It is a masterpiece. My book is man-made. Besides, my brother Frank and I have led entirely different lives."

This reading of A Long Stone's Throw took place in October 2008 at the McNally Jackson bookstore in New York.

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Neda Ulaby
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.